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Maree Coote

Author, Illustrator, Speaking Out

One of the very first to identify the contemporary rise of Melbourne’s cultural and place power, Maree Coote is an energetic inspirational speaker. Her unique understanding of her topic (Melbourne) is made accessible through her command of history, culture, art and design for a wide variety of audiences. According to Philip Adams, “Melbourne never had a more ingenious ambassador.” Coote’s first book The Melbourne Book: A History of Now is in its fourth edition after 12+ years in print, and has been dubbed ‘Melbourne’s Bible’.

Maree’s ingenious typography has caught the attention of international design bodies with her book Spellbound: Making Pictures with the A-B-C winning the coveted Bologna Ragazzi 2017 Special Mention Prize in Italy. (She’s the first Australian to win this prize since Shaun Tan 10 years ago.) It was also shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year awards.
An earlier book Alphabet City Zoo also won a Distinction Prize in Korea’s Nami Concours Awards in a field of entries from 149 countries.

Where were you born?

I was born in bayside Mordialloc and grew up free-range on the beach, swimming, biking, baking-out and dancing my way through the ‘60s. Train trips to town with Mum were an exotic, Paris-end mystery tour for me as a girl.

What themes are recurring in your work?

Time. Place. History. Art. Melbourne. The power of a sense of place invades my work in books for both adults and children. Also, as a practising creative director and designer, I am deeply immersed in typography, graphics and art.

What have been the highlights of your career?

The continued success of The Melbourne Book after so many years is my most treasured reward. Winning the 2012 Royal Historical Society Gold Prize for The Art of Being Melbourne was a great thrill for me as an independent author and publisher. The icing on the cake was winning the New York Independent Publishing Gold Prize in 2014 for the same book. For this, I was invited to speak on Melbourne’s art history in New York at the Algonquin Hotel where the legendary Dorothy Parker convened her round table in the 1920s.

What other jobs have you had?

Advertising Art Director, Copy Writer, Creative Director, board member of John Singleton Advertising. Thereby privileged to work with some of Australia’s finest creative talents.

Where have your works been published?

My themes are local, and so my published territory remains Australia and New Zealand, although many thousands of books have made their way overseas in the suitcases of tourists and local travellers. My books have also been distributed widely throughout the USA since 2014.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about a sense of place, identity and belonging. I explore this notion through Melbourne’s history, contemporary culture, art and design. I want to bring history to life for teenagers and kids, to reboot a sense of belonging in these times of great displacement and global homogeneity.

I like to explore typography, art and design and to devise new forms of visual communication that will engage contemporary readers.

Haven’t I seen you before?

I run a gallery called Melbournestyle in South Melbourne which I fill with my designs, textiles, gifts, books and artworks, all on a Melbourne theme. I began my Melburniana craze back in 1994 with The Melbourne Cup & Saucer. I have been celebrating the creative side of Melbourne ever since, using art, design and humour to bring Melbourne’s history to life via the surface culture in a contemporary way. I’ve been both published by and interviewed in The Age, The Australian, The Melbourne Review, and appeared on ABC TV 7.30 Report. I ran Artplay sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2014, and I have done radio interviews on 3RRR, 3AW, 3CR and ABC 774 and ABC Radio Australia (France).

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

A swim.


Our audience loved Maree’s talk. Their feedback was unanimously great and they had a great evening. One even named Maree as our best presenter to date!

—Scott Steensma, Librarian, Cultural & Economic Development, September 2018

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